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Jiehkkevarri (1,834 m), Lyngen Alps, Troms, North Norway

Jiehkkevarri is one of the most famous mountains in Norway. It is the highest summit in the Lyngen Alps and was first climbed by Hastings and Hogrenning in 1899.

Jiehkkevarri has various tops, and the main summit (1,834 m) is located at latitude 69º 28.145' N; longitude 19º 52.709' E. It is a very steep mountain on many sides but, although there are some very alpine mountains in the area, the various summits of Jiehkkevarri are dome-shaped, and the top of the mountain has many of the characteristics of a small ice-cap. The SE face is particularly impressive, and significant quantities of snow and ice fall down that face on to the glacier below. Slingsby wrote—"Jaeggevarre, the Mont Blanc of the north, is the snow-crowned monarch of the peaks of Lyngen, and is a very fine aggregation of rolling mountain snow-fields."

The easiest ascent route involves climbing Holmbukttind (1,666 m) from Sørfjord to the west. Then it is necessary to drop to an intervening col before proceeding to Jiehkkevarri. There are significant crevasses on the route between the two summits, and normal precautions are required. The route as a whole is not technical, but because of the terrain, the scale of the exercise (return trip likely to involve total elevation gain of ca 2,200 m), and potential complications of weather, it is a significant undertaking. Norwegian sources indicate that the ascent of this mountain is much prized. By the standards of southern Norway this mountain receives very little attention—the route is long, it is rough in places, and it is unmarked. The most popular season for an ascent is in April and May, when the mountain may be climbed on ski.

Because of the glacier safety issues, I joined a group guided by Harvey Goodwin and Espen Nordahl (Midnight Sun Mountain Guides, Tromsø), which completed an ascent on 31 July 2004. The disparate individuals forming this group were all very fit and made light work of the physical demands. We reached Holmbukttind in good time, and were able to relax on that summit in warm sun. It was a perfect summer's day, and the temperature on that summit was over 16º C with only the lightest of breezes. There was a fine view down to the glacier to the south—Blåisen. We roped up for the traverse over to Jiehkkevarri. Depletion of snow led the guides to take a slightly lower line than originally envisaged. We reached the domed summit of Jiehkkevarri without difficulty and were able to relax for nearly an hour in benign conditions. The descent proceeded in a manner as orderly as the ascent, and we were back at our starting place 14 hours after we had left.

It was very pleasing to climb Jiehkkevarri at one's first attempt, and this was substantially due to the favourable weather. By most standards this was a hard day on the mountain, but what was singular was that it seemed relaxed and easy. This was attributable to the other participants and guides. It was a great pleasure to be with these people, and it is appropriate to pay tribute to their good humour and exemplary fitness. It was very unusual to be out with such a fit and happy group, and one could count oneself most fortunate. As the only person domiciled outside Norway, I could take considerable satisfaction from the fact that my own fitness was up to the local standard.

The ascent of Jiehkkevarri fulfilled an ambition to climb the three "main" peaks in mainland Norway, north of the Arctic Circle—I had previously climbed Storsteinsfjellet and Suliskongen.

Alan Law

21 August 2004

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